Addressing The Adaptability Gap in Organizations

The results showed that exponentially minded respondents’ average adaptability levels were higher than the global average norm established in the study across the four dimensions and the overall score.

Tania Hodgkinson

A key issue in organizations‘ exponential transformation readiness, and that most leaders are fully aware of - is the lack of adaptability in organizations to embrace transformation change. Only 6% of respondents across 41 markets and 14 industries in recent research by ExO Sprint Coach Tania Hodgkinson, in collaboration with the OpenExO Community, agreed or strongly agreed that leaders and organizations have the adaptability required for exponential transformation.

So, perhaps the key questions to start with is, what is adaptability, can it be measured and how much of it is needed to embrace transformational change?

Building on previous work by Savickas (2005) and career construction theory, this new research conceptualized that exponential transformation is driven and enabled by the adaptation to the change happening in business and societal context. A change that is being accelerated by exponential technology, and therefore the goal of the adaptation is integrating people (leaders and organization employees) into this exponential environment.

This research measured the adaptability of 115 ‘highly’ or ‘very highly’ exponentially minded OpenExO community practitioners to understand and benchmark adaptability in this new and highly disruptive context.

To do this, an existing framework, called the career adapt-abilities scale that was constructed and tested as reliable and replicable across 13 countries by Savickas and Porfeli (2012) - was adapted to this exponential context. It measures four key components through its inventory of questions.

  • The first measures the degree to which individuals consider and focus on the future driven by the fourth industrial revolution, look ahead and prepare for what might come next.
  • The second component measures to what degree individuals feel responsible for shaping themselves and their business environment to meet the exponential challenges coming next by using self-discipline, effort and persistence.
  • The third considers the openness to exploring self and possible scenarios and shaping those within this context.
  • And finally, the last component is about building beliefs that individuals can actualize choices to implement their planned exponential path.

The results showed that exponentially minded respondents’ average adaptability levels were higher than the global average norm established in the study across the four dimensions and the overall score. The deviation from the norm was highest in the curiosity dimension, while it was lowest in the confidence dimension, which is unsurprising considering the uncertainty of the exponential environment. In addition, 75% of the respondents showed highly developed or developed adapt-abilities scores. ‘Very highly’ exponentially minded respondents had consistently even higher scores across all four dimensions compared to the ‘highly’ exponentially minded respondents.

The results suggest that, what is essentially an Exponential Adapt-Abilities Scale (EAAS), could be a relevant quotient to measure the adaptability of leadership and organizational employees. The EAAS scores of ‘highly’ and ’very highly’ exponentially minded research respondents would further provide a relevant normed result to benchmark organizational teams against. If adaptability is measurable for exponentially minded individuals, and their score is higher than the global norm, the question remains: what are the characteristics of the exponential mindset?

Defining the exponential mindset

Much has been said about the exponential mindset. There is a lot of good practice-based anecdotal data on this from the experienced community members, but so far no unbiased, evidence-based data. That is what the third part of the research carried out by Tania Hodgkinson and Kevin Allen set out to do.

Using the innovative and technology-enabled psychometric assessment tool Lumina Learning, via a research collaboration with Lumina Founder Stewart Desson, and with the participation of the OpenExO community, the research not only measured the personality-based preferences of how exponentially minded people think, how they respond emotionally, and what professional competencies they have, but to also benchmark them against a large international database of business professionals in order to understand the standout differences. This helps consider what specific personality or behavioural aspects are more likely to thrive and support an exponential transformation process.

The data showed that exponentially minded people are very big picture thinkers and very comfortable with change. They are great at conceptualizing strategies and highly imaginative. They combine this with being highly logical in their decision making, good at focussing and avoiding distractions. Their independence of others and their toughness means they will develop their thinking and be willing to defend it if needed. Their ability to reign in  their emotions and their tendency to look for the positives, even in failure, as well as their very high level of resilience, means they also can remain calm under pressure and have the confidence to surmount  challenges and react flexibly to a change in plans. Exponentially minded people are collaborative with a learning attitude. They are also good at communicating their energy and fostering creativity in others.

While people with an exponential mindset are higher than the norm group in all of these characteristics, they are particularly high  - higher than 80% of the norm population of international professionals in the Lumina database - in conceptual and logical thinking, being imaginative, comfortable with change and resilience.

From exponential mindset to exponential leadership

What do these findings mean for leaders and organizations looking to develop their adaptability and readiness for exponential transformation? Beyond the importance of having a measurable starting point, made possible by the quotients and benchmarks that come out of this research, it means that organizations can amplify the effects of the ExO Sprints by transforming their leadership teams first, by working systemically with them to develop a generative and more adaptive way of co-creating future strategies and connecting to stakeholders in order to create a framework of managing and leading that can reap the rewards of a sprint or set of sprints to a much greater degree.

If exponential adaptability is measured, with the quick and free Exponential Adapt-Abilities Scale (EAAS) borne out of this research, can it also be developed? The author’s own sprint experience has shown that it goes hand in hand with developing a systemic, future-back, and outside-in leadership approach and in creating an experiential and innovation-driven learning culture. For example, in the case of the Sprints for two Fraport Twin Star Airports in Bulgaria, the management board, the leadership team, and sprint team members had a clear commitment and invested more than 9000 person hours in their Fit4Future project. This enabled their readiness to adapt to any future horizons, while developing a learning culture and evolving from two airports into a regional ecosystem embedded in the Black Sea Coast Community

If you want to measure your EAAS score and benchmark it, you can do so  here.

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Tania Hodgkinson

Leadership Team Coach. ExO Sprint Coach & Trainer. Purpose Launchpad Mentor.